True North (2007), Bill George - Book Summary

True North (2007) is like a guide that helps you both find your own direction, live according to your nature, and at the same time develop the necessary skills of a leader. By understanding our values ​​and motivations, we can be successful and happy by staying true to our selves.

This book is suitable for

  • Leaders who want a balance between work and personal life;
  • Anyone who wants to be a good leader;
  • Those who need a little extra support to reach their goals.

The author of this book is

Bill George , professor of practical management at the Harvard School of Business, and one of the directors at ExxonMobil, Goldman Sachs and Novartis. Besides, he is also the father of the best-selling book "Positive Leadership".

Chapter 1. The biggest lesson the book has to offer: Find your own self and use it to become a great leader.

Sometimes we feel that great leaders are helped by some supernatural force. They are intelligent, quick, wise and can make decisions that surpass the thinking of ordinary people.

Not really. After interviewing 125 brilliant leaders, the author has drawn the conclusion that they are just as normal as anyone else. However, they have special values ​​that cannot be encapsulated in the typical words associated with leadership such as "vision" or "talent".

By finding and following their own ego, they know what is most important and focus on it. According to the book, when the world seems to be turning upside down and out of control, it's the ego that will help us stand firm and stay true to our true selves.

In this book, readers will also learn about:

Why an impromptu fishing trip can be motivating for the head of The Gap;

The inspiration that completely changed Oprah, the queen of television, on leadership;

Why good leaders are always rational enough to realize their own shortcomings.

Chapter 2. Use your own life story as inspiration and passion to become a great leader.

The relationships and experiences that happen all write their own stories for each person's life. However, leaders are better than others in that they make the most of these seemingly meaningless stories.

Realizing the true meaning hidden in important events will help you find and follow your true self. At the same time, it is also the secret of genius leaders. Howard Schultz, the founder of Starbucks, is a prime example. When his father lost his job, the whole family also lost their health care benefits. Schultz's mother was pregnant at the time, and since then, the family has had to live a life of hiding from creditors of the money his father borrowed to support his wife's pregnancy.

Schultz swore to himself that he would change this if given the chance. Finally, Starbucks became the first business to offer health care rights to part-timers, as long as they work at least 20 hours a week. Arguably, the childhood story became the key to Schultz becoming a true leader.

With a good leader, events can also create the foundation for their lives, becoming a driving force for them to decide to change the times. A typical example is the case of Reatha Clark King, former president of the General Mills Foundation. Living in poverty and discrimination, a woman of color Reatha was still able to win a scholarship and then become a Ph.D. in thermochemistry. Her biggest wish is to bring more opportunities to the poor, to help them overcome the discrimination of skin color and sex. That source of motivation came from the years of poverty, the ego always wanted to help people with similar circumstances to her.

What great leaders have in common is that they often care and consider helping others their most important responsibility, not money or fame.

Chapter 3. Self-centeredness can lead you astray.

Accompanying success will be praise and admiration from everyone around, this is also the time when people are most likely to stray from the original goal.

There are five types of leaders who lose themselves easily: the shrewd, the individualist, the greedy, the loner, and the instant success.

First, the smart people, they have almost no sense of themselves and have no self-respect. With cunning thinking, this type of person achieves success through trickery, deceiving others. Once they have achieved their goal, they will also completely forget the people who helped them before.

Philip Purcell, the former director of Morgan Stanley, is a prime example of the shrewd type. In building a financial services company with a mix of banking and brokerage, he tried to turn the leadership around to his liking and fire people with negative opinions. about this leadership style. This is also the reason why Morgan Stanley at that time lost a lot of qualified employees.

Next are the individualists. Although they are leaders, but instead of being responsible to the team, their biggest goal is to bring about as many benefits as possible for themselves. They are willing to sacrifice the long-term prosperity of the company for their own short-term interests.

Famed people, as the name suggests, their greatest motivation is power, approval, and admiration from everyone around them.

For those who work alone, their biggest failure is not being able to find close companions, they always try to force themselves to be the strongest. When they are so focused on their own work, they do not realize that they are gradually separating themselves from everyone else.

In the end, the "stars," or the people who are successful in the short-term, often don't have a balanced life. Accompanying the rapid success from failure is a series of problems at work and personal, leaving them overwhelmed with work without having time to spend with family and friends.

In order not to get lost, always remind yourself that the phrase "leader" is not about ourselves, but the main mission of a leader is to motivate people to show their bravery.

Chapter 4. Giving strength to others is the job of true leaders.

Leadership is not about forcing others to do what you want, but about motivating people to discover their own full potential. However, leaders often have to have a truly profound and memorable experience to realize this truth.

For example, Oprah Winfrey, in one of her TV shows, she interviewed a woman who was sexually abused as a child. During the interview, the girl only remembered the horrible memories of her childhood, even she was completely defeated by those bad emotions. The interview completely changed Winfrey's mind, she realized that her biggest mission is to help people around, especially women, instead of just pursuing personal goals.

Most true leaders have had mind-changing stories like Winfrey's. Only then did they truly realize their mission.

Chapter 5. If you are self-aware, you won't have to worry about getting lost.

While nothing new, this is the most effective and easiest advice to follow. In fact, each person is a complex whole of different personalities and influencing factors. Therefore, we need to be aware of our core values, to always act on the path towards our own self.

In order to realize ourselves, we need to know what we are strong at, our unique personality and interests.

When we have the right self-awareness, we will have a lot more confidence in ourselves. The case of Bruce Chizen, the director of the Adobe company, is a prime example. At first, he was afraid to work in the technology market because he was not a specialized engineer. However, he knows that he has the ability to sell and promote products very well, and his technology skills can also be learned. A clear sense of his own abilities motivated him to continue pursuing his choice and later become a successful director.

Another important meaning of self-awareness is that we will discover our own vulnerabilities, and from there find factors that will fill them. For Ned Barnholt, former director of Agilent, self-awareness is the most important factor for him to build an effective team. Barnholt knows that finance - accounting is not his strength, so the staff around him are all very proficient in this field.

On the contrary, the lack of self-awareness will have serious consequences. Take, for example, the case of David Pottruck, the former director of Charles Schwab. When he was the leader of a small group, he always worked hard, but didn't understand why people still had a hostile attitude towards him. And in the end, he was really shocked when his superiors judged him as unreliable because his colleagues thought that Pottruck was only trying to gain benefits for himself.

Chapter 6. Always uphold your own values ​​and principles.

Besides self-awareness, we also need to find the values ​​and principles that make up our own leadership style. What is most important to you? What will always keep you from acting in moderation? Or what can you do to help others?

If you know what factors will impact your life, it's time to develop the values ​​and principles that define your leadership style. Most importantly, those values ​​and principles will be the core of your behavior.

It shouldn't be difficult to uphold those principles if all goes well. But if you're under pressure, for example when your future, career or life is at stake, the principles run the risk of being distorted.

David Gergen, who has served as an adviser to Presidents Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton, has always wanted to live with the core values ​​that come from the family tradition. However, when the Watergate political scandal broke, he could not resign, because he did not want to be seen as a runaway coward. Although very clean, his career is still in danger of collapse.

After realizing Nixon's lack of transparency, both before the scandal broke and after he manipulated public opinion, Gergen recognized his work ethic and core values ​​as integrity, in clean.

The values ​​of each of us can be discovered and tested in different situations. When we find our self, we won't need to worry about losing our own worth one day.

Narayana Murthy, the founder of Infosys, is a prime example as he is determined to prove to the world that in India it is possible to build a strong and successful business without corruption. body. Initially, because Murthy did not want to pay bribes, it took Infosys a year for the phone line to be installed. Although it was difficult at first, the founder's steadfast transparency spread throughout the company, making it a value that everyone admired.

Chapter 7. Find the true source of motivation that helps you reach your full potential.

In addition to self-awareness and core values, true leaders also need strong motivation. So first of all, we must know what motivates us. Motivation is divided into two categories: exogenous and endogenous. Exogenous motivations such as high results, qualifications, and bonuses will be determined by external factors.

In contrast, endogenous motivation comes from your own sense of meaning in life. It stems from stories like growing up, the satisfaction of doing a task well, or acting on your beliefs. Therefore, endogenous dynamics are often hidden deeper and more difficult to detect than exogenous. In fact, there are many people who have never even had a feeling about this great source of motivation. With the tendency to be absorbed in searching for material values, along with pressure from society, leaders mostly consider recognition and admiration from people around as a goal to strive for instead of using the things that really motivate them.

For example, many young leaders today want to work in high-paying jobs to pay for a rich life and have money to build a home. They tell themselves that after doing all these things, they will follow their passion later. However, even though they are used to a lifestyle and work based on material motivation, they gradually no longer want to change.

Of course, we don't have to give up all of our extrinsic motivation to be a true leader. The most important thing is to know the balance between these two sources of motivation.

Bob Fisher, who runs The Gap, is a prime example of this possibility. When he was 20 years old when he was 20 years old, he went fishing on the banks of the Feather River, and the remaining gold mining equipment aroused deep concerns about the environment. That interest gradually turned into an endogenous motivation for him. Fisher then gathered all employees to show them that the company was going to recycle waste and join the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). That action not only protects the environment (endogenous source of motivation) but also enhances the image of the company in the eyes of society (exogenous motivation).

Chapter 8. Find powerful assistants by building lasting relationships.

Everyone, even the best leaders, need help. True leaders understand that it is their close followers who are behind their success.

In fact, great leaders all have a mentor who has changed their lives and helped them develop skills and confidence in themselves. The instructor doesn't have to make you proud of yourself. Instead, they give you a love and care that is tough and strict enough for you to learn valuable lessons from. So don't hesitate to make friends with potential instructors. You will always learn a lot from someone who is experienced and willing to help you change your life.

At the age of 20, Dave Dillion was appointed deputy commercial director of Fry supermarket, a branch of the Dillion family company. One day, he received a phone call from Chuck Fry, who sold the supermarket to his family. Fry offers to take him on a tour of one of his stores. After that meeting, they talked for at least an hour each day, during which Fry taught Dillion how to maximize the potential of the company.

In addition to mentors, support groups are also a place for us to give advice on how to become a better leader. The most effective groups are those that meet regularly to talk about the most important things in their lives.

The author of the book, Bill George, has a regular 75-minute meeting every Wednesday with a group that was founded 30 years ago. In fact, George and the rest of the gang consider the group to be one of the most important elements of life. It helps them clarify their beliefs, values, and views on important issues, then give each other the necessary feedback and suggestions.

It doesn't have to be a new leader to choose a support group, anyone who has or is having similar problems can give you advice and perspectives that you haven't discovered yet. People who can help you are not limited to a group or a close mentor, it can be a partner, family, close friends.

The leader is likely to be the loneliest, so keep your relationships close.

Chapter 9. Know how to combine all aspects of life so that you can be yourself.

As we've seen, leadership isn't just about how you present yourself in the workplace. To be able to live true to your personality, you must know how to combine all the other aspects of your life. That means we have to balance work and personal lives, including duties, family and friends. If we can do that, whether at work, at home or meeting friends, we can all live with our own unique personality.

Many people wonder if it is possible for a person to have a rich personal life and be successful at work? The answer is yes, if you realize the fact that, we are not heroes that can appear anywhere if someone needs help.

The case of Kris Johnson, the rising star at Medtronic, is a prime example. After being promoted to Medtronic's global sales director, Kris realized that she was spending too much time at work that she forgot about her family. After that, she decided to leave Medtronic and move to a mid-range company so that she could spend more time with her children. Above all, she feels very happy that she is able to balance family and work despite having to trade a illustrious career.

Besides, true leaders are always aware of their own success. This is a factor that will remind them of the difficult journey of trying, helping them not to become snobby and arrogant when at the top of their career. One of the ways to achieve that is to find a place where you can refresh your thinking. It can be a place where you and your family sometimes stop by to relax, chat, and help you have an authentic view of your current life.

The top position always comes with a lot of pressure, but you can completely balance between work and personal life.


The book's message conveys:

By discovering different sides of yourself, you will find your own "guideline" to stay on track, always be yourself.

Advice from the author

Try the “New York Times test” method.

If you're at a loss for a major decision, imagine how you would feel if the whole thing was handled that way and appeared on the front page of the prestigious New York Times? If it is a feeling of anxiety and fear, you have to think more before you act. If you feel proud, go ahead and do it no matter how much anyone discourages or criticizes you.